Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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Group Lays Out Reform Plan for Baltimore Police

BALTIMORE (CN) - As six Baltimore police officers go on trial for the death of Freddie Gray, a group calling on police reforms released a report on what the city must do to address systematic misconduct.

Advocating for central-west Baltimore since 2010, the No Boundaries Coalition created its commission on police misconduct after Gray's April 27 funeral triggered riots in the streets.

Marking the release of this coalition's report Tuesday, the group held a news conference Tuesday evening outside the St. Peter Claver Church, two blocks from the site of the riots on North Avenue.

The coalition says it convened the commission "to document community recollections of specific incidents of police misconduct ... [and] describe recent changes (2005-2015) in law enforcement practice that have produced new strategies, procedures, and techniques of policing."

"Informants agreed that the legacy of racism in Baltimore is a defining feature of community life and is experienced through concentrated poverty, disinvestment, discrimination, and police profiling and abuse in Sandtown, West Baltimore," the report states.

Combatting the narrative "that force is necessary in high crime areas to combat crime," the coalition said its report confirms "that the multi-layered problem of police neglect, corruption, misconduct, and brutality increased crime rather than deterring it."

"A shift toward police militarization, zero-tolerance enforcement, and tough-on-crime sentencing were all identifiable factors that have purportedly weakened community trust in the police," the report continues.

The coalition also condemns Baltimore's "failure to hold abusive officers accountable was presented as the factor most damaging to the [police department's] legitimacy."

Among suggestions "to improve police and community relations," the report concludes with a plea for Baltimore to embrace community policing.

An ideal model would include "fully funded permanent foot posts in resident-designated areas," the report states.

The coalition said the Baltimore Police Department must rebuild trust with civilians, something it can accomplish by training officers "in anti-racism, de-escalation and community relations."

A fully funded Baltimore Civilian Review Board would also go a long way toward increasing transparency, and the BPD should seek more civilian input on "reform, practices, priorities, and budgeting," the report states.

Charles Cange, a professor at the University of Maryland and a collaborator on the commission, called the report "one of the main evidence bases upon which the DOJ will draft its Consent Decree with the Baltimore Police."

The U.S. Department of Justice opened its investigation into the Baltimore Police Department in May after 25-year-old Gray sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury while in police custody.

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